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By Nancy Nais
MULU, Nov 13: In honouring their pledge to support and revive Mulu’s tourism industry, regional airline operating the rural air services in East Malaysia, MASwings has increased their flight frequency into Sarawak’s iconic UNESCO World Heritage site.
In disclosing this, MASwings chief operating officer Captain Nasaruddin A Bakar said currently, the airline is operating 13 direct flights per week from Kuching (3), Kota Kinabalu (3) and Miri (7) to Mulu.
By Dec 1, the Kuching-Mulu and Kota Kinabalu-Mulu sectors will each see an increase to seven flights respectively, while the Miri-Mulu sector will get 12 flights weekly.
“MASwings is happy and proud to continue serving the community especially post-Covid, when inter-district and interstate travel are allowed once more. With the increase of incoming flight frequencies, this will also address the issues of limited flights to Mulu.
“This is also to support Sarawak Tourism Board’s initiatives in reviving domestic tourism to promote Mulu National Park UNESCO World Heritage site for adventure and nature lovers,” Nasaruddin told reporters during a stakeholder and media engagement meeting in Mulu yesterday.
Tourism was one of the most badly affected sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic after almost two years of travel bans.
As the industry is gradually gaining back its traction and Mulu National Park is ready to welcome visitors back to the Land of the Hornbill, park guide Christopher Victor has urged MASwings to consider lowering the fares for Malaysians to Mulu.
“Currently, it is still very expensive, thus making Sarawakians and Malaysians from other states lose interest when it comes to visiting Mulu. It is noted that visitors would rather go somewhere else which offers cheaper flight fares post-Covid-19.
“Mulu in particular is facing competition for visitors due to its remote location deep in the interior of Baram and the fact that it can realistically only be reached by flight,” Christopher said during the Q and A session at the New Norm Travel and Responsible Tourism event in Mulu.
While the fares to Mulu are considered cheap to foreigners, he asserts that it is expensive for Malaysians, thus making it difficult to woo local visitors.
Since the tourism sector has opened up, he hoped that the relevant authorities will assist in aggressively promoting Mulu National Park.
Christopher also urged MASwings to consider changing its Kuching-Mulu flight sector time.
Currently, its Kuching to Mulu sector flies on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, departing at 12.30pm and arriving at 2.10pm.
“Providing that there are no delays, visitors coming from Kuching will arrive late in the afternoon. That means half a day is already gone. By the time they check-in at their respective accommodations, it will be to late for them to visit our show caves on the same day.
“We have visitors who wish to visit all our four show caves, but at times, it is not possible due to their late arrival and of course weather conditions on that day,” Christopher said.
In responding to Christopher’s suggestion, Nasaruddin assured that MASwings will do what it can to support tourism in the area.
He explained that there are three flights per day to Mulu, which are from Kuching, Miri and Kota Kinabalu.
“These flights are running at full capacity at the moment. With such high frequencies, we should be able to move around and work out the timings.
“However, this is subject to our aircraft rotation as well,” he said.
On another note, Nasaruddin further explained that there some restrictions to be considered, especially for Mulu sector.
“Firstly, if the aircraft comes in too earlier, say around 8am or 9am, there is cloud cover over the airport and our aircraft will not be able to land.
“Secondly, we cannot schedule the flight arrival later in the afternoon because of the bats. That is why Mulu airport is only open up till 4pm everyday. Beyond that time, no aircraft is allowed to take off or land because of the bats,” he said.
Mulu National Park, having one of the most spectacular cave systems in the world, is also home to some 12 species of bats including a massive colony of wrinkled-lipped bats which is estimated to have a population of between 2.5 and 3.5 million individuals.
These bats will leave Deer Cave between 4.30pm and 6.30pm, in search of food.
The clouds of bats will move out of the cave in streams or ribbons that spiral and change shape, for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, as for pricing issue, Nasaruddin said MASwings is offering various promotions right now, such as the ‘FlyPass Borneo’ or ‘Ok! Go!’ promotions and urges customers to grab the opportunities to enjoy the special fares offered. — DayakDaily